John Hoppner’s portrait of Dorothea, 1785, pencil & chalk on paper. (Courtesy of the British Embassy in Paris)
She was, shall we say, extremely active romantically. By the age of 20 she had already had a child as a result of an affair with the theatre manager in Cork. A number of other affairs followed, along with three other children. And then she met the Duke of Clarence (later to become William IV)….by whom she had at least ten children (all of whom were given the name FitzClarence). She openly lived with the Duke at Bushy House, attending official engagements as his consort.
She was his mistress from 1791 until 1811, so baby-rearing might be thought to have been a full time job. Not at all, she continued to work on the stage throughout their relationship.
Her children all did rather well for themselves – the daughters marrying viscounts, earls and admirals, while one of the sons became rear-admiral, and another a Lieutenant-General in the British Army.
Dorothea was one of the actresses featured in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition of First Actresses. This by John Hoppner
Dorothea in one of her famous breeches roles in Cibber’s ‘She Would and She Would Not’, where she dresses as a young soldier to follow her lover to Madrid.
So today Dorothea, we remember you and wish you many happy returns of the day. Yours was certainly an eventful (and fecund) life!